Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Katie Hyslop contrasts Canada's longstanding recognition that housing is a human right against the gross lack of policy action to ensure its availability:
Canada has signed and ratified the 1976 United Nations' International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and in Article 11 it does recognize "the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions."

"Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right," the next sentence of the covenant says.
Canada has also ratified the UN's International Convention on Women's Rights, and had a hand in drafting the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Both of these also mention a right to housing, either as part of a right to "a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family," or on a basis of equity with men who enjoy a right to adequate housing.

"Essentially, Canada has committed on the international scene to respecting a right to adequate housing for every resident in Canada," said Margot Young, law professor at the University of British Columbia.
Evidence that Canada is failing to deliver on that right is in our overcrowded shelters, tent cities, or sidewalk camps, where an estimated 235,000 people experience homelessness every year. By definition, it would seem, their right to housing as guaranteed by the covenants Canada has signed, is being denied. 
The Canadian Homelessness Research Network estimated in a 2014 report that a comprehensive national housing strategy that included maintaining and expanding social and indigenous housing, as well as rental and home owner subsidies, could be implemented for about $4 billion a year -- twice what the federal government has been spending on social housing in recent years. Offsetting that, however, would be annual savings in emergency and social services that the Network estimated at $7 billion.

But the pay off would be more than financial, Larkin says. "One of my hopes would be that it would change the social structure of our cities," she says, "to accept that we should have diversity in all of our cities, that people who are not the richest of the rich should also be allowed to live in Vancouver, and that people should be able to age in place."

Meanwhile, Canadians may have a moral right to adequate housing enshrined in international covenants -- and our federal government has signed on in principle. But 40 years later, it's still not ready to put that principle into action. Getting it to do so, experts agree, will be a job for politics rather than the law.
- Meanwhile, Vineeth Sekharan examines the connection between adverse childhood experiences and later homelessness. And Denise Leduc documents how the Wall government's attacks on Saskatchewan corrections conditions are leading to dangerous results for inmates and their children.

- Art Eggleton makes the case for Canada to test - and ultimately implement - a basic income. 

- Tom Randall discusses how a major shift toward electric vehicles may be just a few years away - and would fundamentally reshape our current level of reliance on oil.

- Finally, Jim Bronskill reports on Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault's call for cabinet offices to be included in Canada's access to information legislation. And Andrew Mitrovica points to a recent hearing with CSIS and RCMP officials as a prime example of how we can't leave oversight of state action solely in the hands of MPs.

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